Giant ragweed germination is delayed by both a physiological dormancy of the embryo (embryo dormancy) and an inhibitory influence of embryo-covering structures (covering structure-enforced [CSE] dormancy). To clarify the roles of embryo and CSE dormancy in giant ragweed seedling emergence timing, we conducted two experiments to address the following objectives: (1) determine changes in germinability for giant ragweed dispersal units (hereafter “involucres”) and their components under natural burial conditions, and (2) compare embryo and CSE dormancy alleviation and emergence periodicity between successional and agricultural populations. In Experiment 1, involucres were buried in crop fields at Columbus, OH, periodically excavated, and brought to the laboratory for dissection. Involucres, achenes, and embryos were then subjected to germination assays at 20 C. In Experiment 2, temporal patterns of seedling emergence were determined at a common burial site. Reductions in embryo and CSE dormancy were compared with controlled-environment stratification followed by germination assays at 12 and 20 C, temperatures representative of soil conditions in spring and summer. Results indicated that overwinter dormancy loss involved sequential reductions in embryo and CSE dormancy. CSE dormancy, which may limit potential for fatal germination during fall, was caused by the pericarp and/or embryo-covering structures within the pericarp. In Experiment 2, successional populations emerged synchronously in early spring, whereas agricultural populations emerged throughout the growing season. Levels of embryo dormancy were greater in the agricultural populations than the successional populations, but CSE dormancy levels were similar among populations. In 12 C germination assays, embryo dormancy levels were positively correlated with time required to reach 95% cumulative emergence (run 1: r = 0.81, P = 0.03; run 2: r = 0.76, P = 0.05). These results suggest that late-season emergence in giant ragweed involves high levels of embryo dormancy that prevent germination at low temperatures in spring.
Nomenclature: Giant ragweed, Ambrosia trifida L. AMBTR.